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More than one-third (36%) of CMOs around the world believe that their role has changed in the past few years to drive more overall business growth, with one-third likewise feeling that their role has significantly gained in importance. So finds The Trade Desk in a new report [pdf] produced in partnership with Forbes Insights, which surveyed more than 200 CMOs across the Americas, Europe and Asia-Pacific from companies with at least $500 million in revenues.

The results bring to mind previous research, which has found that playing a key role in company growth initiatives is one of the top traits of an effective CMO. But with this expansion of influence comes greater pressure: 1 in 3 CMOs also said they’re facing more accountability, according to this latest study.

Within this environment, ROI is a hot and buzzworthy metric. Although new research from Gartner suggests that it’s not perceived to be as important as brand awareness, The Trade Desk and Forbes Insights report indicates that return on marketing investment joins customer loyalty and retention as the most important metrics to CMOs to demonstrate the value of marketing to the enterprise.

Curiously, though, it may not line up with what CMOs think management wants from them.

Revenue Increase Is Top of Mind… More Than ROI

Separate results from the survey reflect the focus on business growth. Asked which 3 (of 8) expectations management has for marketing, by far the largest share of respondents (53%) cited increasing revenue. At what cost seems to be of less importance: only about half as many (28%) CMOs said that management expectations focus around financial outcomes such as ROI.

Beyond revenue increases, CMOs felt that improving the customer experience (36%), new customer acquisition (35%), efficiency/cost savings (34%) and customer retention (33%) are the top expectations of management.

CMOs are largely aligned on these objectives. When presented with the same list and asked to select the top 3 goals of their marketing organization, respondents pointed first to increasing revenue. However, they did so with far less consensus, as only 35% chose this among their top-3 goals.

Following revenue increases, CMOs pointed next to new customer acquisition and improving the customer experience as being among their top goals for the marketing organization. These results put them largely in line with management expectations.

However, there was one area of misalignment. While increasing brand awareness was towards the bottom of the list of management expectations, it sat near the top of the marketing organization’s goals. This isn’t the first time a distinction around branding has arisen in research: a report released earlier this year from the CMO Club and Deloitte found that marketing leaders were more likely to have an impact on brand valuation than to feel that their organizations defined growth in that way.

So Is Efficiency in Marketing Important?

This latest study turns up an interesting dichotomy in perspectives: efficiency/cost savings emerged as the least-cited goal of the marketing organization, but separately was named the area most top of mind for CMOs next year.

Indeed, of 6 areas identified, the largest share of respondents (46%) said that efficiency in marketing is top of mind for them next year, ahead of the customer experience (42%) and investing in technology (41%).

Additionally, when asked which of those 6 areas they need to focus on most for their own development, CMOs again cited efficiency in marketing first (25% share), topping technology investing (20%) and the customer experience (18%).

What may be happening is that while marketing efficiency hasn’t been a top goal for the organization, CMOs are recognizing that it is a management expectation: it ranked much higher on the list of management’s desires than on the list of marketing’s objectives.

It’s also worth noting that CMOs’ top personal development goals relate to each other. As the report’s authors point out, “efficiency comes from marketing the right technology investments.” And investments they’ll make: the vast majority (86%) plan to increase their martech spending next year, including almost half (46%) who’ll hike their budgets by at least 25%.

No wonder marketing technology is now a larger expense than talent

The full report is available to view here [pdf].

About the Data: The results are based on a survey conducted by Forbes Insights among 226 CMOs from North and South America (35% share), Europe (35%) and Asia-Pacific (30%). Respondents represent a variety of sectors including technology (16%), manufacturing and industrial products (16%) and retail (13%), and are all from organizations with at least $500 million in annual revenues.

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